My Nightmare with

I pulled the trigger on a Nest thermostat online when had a “Save the Tax” promo, making it a really great price.  But, after buying it, the first thing I noticed was that the order status said the expected ship date was 7-16 days AFTER it was according to the product’s page.  I contacted customer service, but heard nothing for days.

It actually showed up only a day late, but by then I was planning on returning it and shopping elsewhere.  Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, I managed to pick the Nest up for just $249 CDN (minus the no tax promo) and during the time of shipping, every retailer bumped the price up to $329.

The unit actually had some issues preventing me from getting it to work properly. So, I hurriedly took it down and repackaged it to return for an exchange. I went to my local store and told them I needed an exchange, but rather than giving me a new unit, the customer service representative refunded my card (this also means I lost all my Avion bonus points from connecting to through the RBC emall). I repeated that I wanted an EXCHANGE, to which she replied that I had to go and buy it all over again. So, wandering through the giant store, I eventually found a card for it in (they’re locked up front) and took it back to customer service where she then informed me that they were all sold out! I asked if she could locate one at another store and she said she had just done that for another customer and that they had some in the next city.

So, I went all the way there, found the card and took it along with the exchange receipt paper to customer service. I had to explain about the fact that it had already been returned, but I needed an exchange. I really just needed a new one at the same price that I bought the first one. Eventually they figured it out and I went home.

Close to home I heard some screws rattling in the box, so I took it out and discovered that it wasn’t even a new unit. They gave me a return! So, I did a u-turn and went all the way back to the store to tell them to give me a new one. They explained that all the ones they had were open boxes, but there shouldn’t be any problems.

So I went home. In the end, it seems to work. But this has been the single worst shopping experience of my life and I didn’t even have the simple pleasure of a brand-new unit. I ordered online and ended up putting nearly 65km on my car.

I wrote this up to my wife and copied it into an email response to Lowe’s customer service.  Surprisingly, they offered to refund me 10% on the original purchase for all my troubles.

But it couldn’t be that easy.  After a couple of weeks having not received the refund, I contacted customer service to see what the status was.  They informed me that they couldn’t refund my card since the original item was returned.

Didn’t I already tell them that?  Of course I did, but they’re incompetent.

Don’t do it folks.  Home Depot has their shit together.  Shop there.

Can the Blue Jays make it in the post season?

I’ve been considering the Blue Jays chances to make it to the post season for a little while, and as I write this, Tulo has left the game in New York with some sort of back/rib injury.

Anyway, I’m a die-hard Jays fan, but when I look ahead to the post season, I have a major concern.  And they should make it there, either at the top of the East or in the wild-card position.

While the offense has been enormous this season, one can’t help but notice that they have been absolutely shut down by good pitching.  They FEAST on anything less than awesome, but the post season will be filled with great pitching and the Jays’ bats will need to adjust.

Still, I love their chances!

Synology DiskStation DS414

After watching a friend’s HP MediaSmart Windows Home Server die a slow death recently, I became ultra paranoid about my own WHS failing and leaving me trying to find solutions to a dead platform.

Enter Synology.  After reading plenty of reviews, I opted for the 4-bay 2014 model (which is the 414 in the model name).  I got a pretty nice deal having Canada Computers match Memory Express’ price for the unit, and picked up two 3TB WD Red drives as well.

For the RAID, I decided to go with SHR (Synology Hybrid RAID), which is the default, and seems to do a better job of utilizing the space of drives with mixed capacities.  My plan was to use the two new 3TB drives along with some Green drives from my WHS.  Unfortunately, I was in for a painful experience trying to move over the data from my WHS to the Synology.  You see, with SHR you can’t add drives of a smaller capacity than the largest drive to your array.  Since I wanted to add a 2TB and a 1TB from my WHS, I wouldn’t be able to already have a 3TB drive in the Synology.

And of course, I didn’t realize this the first time around.

In the end, I borrowed a bunch of external drives to hook up to my WHS and added them to the storage pool.  I then removed the two drives I wanted to use and created a new SHR with two 3TB, one 2TB and one 1TB drive.  After a lengthy build process and file copying, I was all set up.

They Synology DiskStation Manager software is so easy to use.  I was very pleased with the available options and their easy setup.  Synology truly shines in this respect.  The best part is, I never have to touch it anymore.  It’s become a silent, reliable part of my home network.  I’ve even set up both my Mac’s Time Machine and Windows’ File History to reside on the DS414 with minimal effort.

Synology also offers apps that can be installed to perform a variety of functions, such as audio and video streaming, photo storage and sharing and even Bit torrent downloading.  There’s lots more, too!

For those looking for a solid backup solution, not to mention tons of functionality with the available apps, the Synology DS414 is a top-notch device.

MusclePharm Combat Crunch Protein Bars

Combat CrunchSince I’m too lazy in the mornings to make a proper meal before working out, I was looking for a great-tasting protein bar.  After visiting, I saw that there was a promotion on for these bars and decided to give them a shot.

What can I say?  They’re amazing!  I got both the Chocolate Peanut Butter and the Cinnamon Twist flavours and I can’t decide which one I like better.  They’re completely unlike other protein bars I’ve tried that taste OK, but are a bit of a chore to get through.  I actually look forward to the Combat Crunch bars.

Beyond that, they have a decent amount of energy, fibre and protein for my dietary needs.

Check them out!

A Backup Solution Using Storage Spaces

A friend of mine had his Windows Home Server die and was looking to me for help.  He needed to replace the functionality he was getting from the WHS: backup protection and media storage.  Given the way his WHS died, he was shying away from using that particular solution again.

Enter Storage Spaces.  If you haven’t heard of Storage Spaces, I’ll give you a basic overview.  A feature of Windows 8, Storage Spaces allows you to combine the capacity of several hard drives, both internal and external, into one large “Storage Space”.  Within this space, you can create pools with varying levels of redundancy.  For instance, my friend required two pools: one for backup, and another for his media library.  For the backup pool, which gets it’s own drive letter and is accessed through Windows that way, we chose double redundancy, meaning we could withstand a single drive failure.  For the media library, we chose to have no redundancy due to the large amount of space required (more than we had).

For the hardware, we chose a HX4Vantec HX4 quad-bay enclosure.  He purchased a 4TB and a 2TB WD Red drive to drop into it, and we also leveraged an existing drive to add further capacity.

Setup, done at my house, was quick and easy.  File transfers were reasonable over the USB 3.0 connection.  Once ready, we moved the enclosure over to his house, plugged it in, and Windows 8.1 immediately identified the drives were using Storage Spaces and brought up the drive letters.

To complete the backup portion of our task, we enabled File History through Windows and pointed it at the Backup drive.  This way, all the files in his libraries would have a history associated with it, on a backup solution that could withstand a drive failure.

Up to this point, it’s working perfectly.  The next step would be to purchase more storage and move his media to a parity pool.  I’ve read these pools suffer from a need to rebalance data among the drives that currently isn’t present.  But that’s a future battle.

How Fibbage (Xbox One) Made My Party Hilarious

Fibbage boxAs soon as I saw Fibbage  in the Xbox store, I knew I had to try it.  I just needed to have some people over.

Fibbage, from the makers of You Don’t Know Jack, bills itself as a “hilarious party bluffing game”. And if you’re concerned about having enough controllers so your entire party can participate, don’t be.   Fibbage dispenses with the regular controllers in favour of phones, tablets and laptops.  Players simply need to navigate to their website, enter a room code and they’re in.

You could call Fibbage the Balderdash of the digital age.  Each round consists of a sentence such as “The mayor of Rabbit Hash Kentucky is a _________”, and the players have to fill in the blanks with a lie.  If you can fool players into thinking your answer is the correct one, you get points.  You even earn some extra kudos for clever or funny answers, as voted on by the other players.

It was so easy to set up, and in no time my group of eight players was playing and having a great time.  Every round resulted in howls of laughter.  So often the real answers are as insane as the ones we provided, which means it’s never obvious which the correct one is, no matter how outlandish the choice are. It was so fun that time flew by and before we knew it, it was the early hours of the morning and everybody had to dash out.

For $6.99 in the Xbox One store, you can quickly grab this and download it at the last minute like I the next time you have friends over.

Synergy Mouse & Keyboard Sharing Software

Synergy logoI’ve been using Synergy for years now, and it has truly made my computer setup much more usable. First, let me explain the problem I faced. I am a die-hard PC user, but have had the misfortune of requiring a Mac for work for almost 20 years now. And, because I do so much overtime, I bought the first unibody MacBook Pro in 2008. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great laptop, but I only use it for work.

At some point I discovered the joys of a dual-monitor setup for my desktop PC, and I wondered how I could bring that to my Mac. Easy enough to plug it into one of my monitors, but you would have to suffer through turning awkwardly to use the keyboard and trackpad. And I wasn’t about to buy a wireless one or add to my cable clutter with a KVM switch.

This is where Synergy comes in. Simply install the software on each computer, go through the setup of identifying servers and clients, and you’re done. Suddenly, my mouse could move across screens, even across my PC screen to my Mac. Whichever computer the mouse is currently on is also the one that has use of the keyboard. Now when I work, I have the dual-monitor setup plus the laptop screen all active, and the mouse moves seamlessly between all displays.

The only downside of Synergy, besides the odd random application shutdown, seems to be the founder & CEO. I donate to software I use. I believe in supporting the dev somehow. But Synergy bombarded me with emails about donating more and more, and how they couldn’t make ends meet, etc., etc. Without going into it, Synergy is no longer free, but costs $4.99 to new users.

I’d say it’s well worth it if you have a situation similar to mine.

Prana Kilimanjaro Deluxe Chocolate Mix

WP_20140914_002I have plenty of reasons to love Costco, but the latest, and possibly greatest, has to be the incredibly addictive Kilimanjaro snack.

The ingredients read like a list of my favourite snacks all rolled into one: dark chocolate, almonds, raisins, cashews, cranberries (sweetened with apple juice!), walnuts…all topped off with unrefined sea salt.

The only thing I don’t like about it is that I can’t cut myself off at the 30g (1/4 cup) serving size and end up doing significant diet damage.

Xbox One September Update

From the sounds of it, I may have been the only person on Earth who was more thrilled with the direction Microsoft was taking with the original Xbox One announcement. I was disappointed to hear what I considered to be some major steps in the wrong direction to satisfy the many LOUD fans (or press).

Regardless, I’ve been hugely impressed with the frequency and value of the Xbox One updates since it launched.  They’re delivering on many promises and just plain making the experience better while adding quality features.

With the September update, you can finally launch right into the TV app.  This is most often where I want to go anyway, so this feature is big for my household.

The media player app is also quite welcomed.  They’re promising that the Xbox One will be able to handle all the common codecs and containers such as MKV, which I use heavily.  This doesn’t seem to be the killer app (ie. XBMC or whatever the hell they’re calling it now), but is bonus functionality none the less.

This comes hot on the heels of a great August update. Keep them coming, Xbox team.